This month my son graduates from University. So do a big bunch of his friends.
None of them (ok, maybe one – and I picked her early) have jobs. Many are graduating from decent business programs at good schools – like Queen’s, McGill, Dalhousie.
None of them seems particularly perturbed about graduating without work (results from the parent survey may differ). It makes sense that there’s a certain comfort (and dangerous reinforcement?) when everyone around is in the same boat.
What few seem to have, is a plan – or perhaps more accurately – a serious plan. Vague notions of ‘working for my dad’ (ok as a summer job, sucks upon graduation), traveling (is there any more room in Australia for Canadian students?) and going back to college to become a PR person or fashion designer seem to top the list of short term options (oh, along with “I’m just going to golf this summer and get serious in September”, which is just about guaranteed to turn any dinner conversation into a lecture on walking 10 miles to and from school, naked, in the snow, uphill both ways).
Having now been forced to put some of my own brain time towards the ‘what next?’ question, here’s some of the ideas I’ve come up with. Seriously.
1. Start a business. You have at least one thing going for you that you will only really appreciate 10 years from now when your kids are 2 and 4 and your $800,000 mortgage has you wishing you’d sold to Google. YOU HAVE NOTHING TO LOSE. This is the only good time to start a business. And fail. And learn. And start again. And succeed. And get rich?
Oh, and one other thing. Take a look around you at the talent pool you’re surrounded by. Your friends aren’t losers (ok, one or two are, but they’ve got perfect sales personalities). Sure, it would be nice to have more experience but that’s where successful, experienced moms and dads would be happy to weigh in (honey, that doesn’t mean you’re fat, it’s just a term for helping). Seriously, I’m contemplating starting a company with your friends – you should too.
2. Build your brand – learn to lever the internet. Stef got lucky, but she got it right. Those crazy Facebook videos got her the job with Britney in New York. What’s the learning?
Remember the drives to Myrtle Beach and those goofy ‘South of the Border’ billboard ads starting somewhere south of Buffalo and ending at that rest stop in SC? We stopped, right? That’s you. And your highway.
Facebook is only one of the billboards. Times are changing. You need to get with it.
You need a blog. NEED. Then, start figuring out Flickr, YouTube, Twitter and a bunch of the others. Ever heard of Friend Connect? Linkedin? What does your Google profile say? You think you’ve done everything you can to get noticed? To differentiate yourself? Would you believe that you’ve barely started?
3. Lever your connections. Dude, as a 6 year old, you were one of the world’s best networkers. Then they invented the internet. I’ve seen you create a date, golf game, party, dinner, card game, movie, whatever in less than 4 minutes. Getting a job may take a little longer (8 to 10 minutes) but the principles are the same. And that expensive private school you went to? I know some of those kids MUST have jobs. And really cool, important parents.
4. Get more education. I’m not a huge fan of this one (because I’m paying?), but let’s face it – you’ve been rammed into a generation that’s going to stay in school a long time given the lack of other options. If you’re not going to start your own business (and get that education) going back to school will help you stay competitive (although I still find it ironic that College is the new PhD).
5. Travel. I know I dissed this one earlier but, honestly…why not? So long as ‘travel’ includes ‘work’ – as in bar tending, serving, liftie, snowboard instructor, personal trainer, dog walker. Hey, seeing the world and experiencing new stuff is great experience and if you can’t get experience any other way, then you might as well take off when it doesn’t matter as much.
That’s all I’ve got. I’m sure there’s more but hey, I have a job! Over to you big guy!